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Ruta Mave: What goes around comes around

Monday 5 February 2024 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion


Ruta Mave: What goes around comes around
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

Last week I was looking for some positivity to write about, after realising corruption featured as the common theme in my articles last year, writes Ruta Mave.

Then a joyous moment occurred as the news broke ‘High-profile trio found guilty’.

The Deputy Prime Minister, the ex-prime minister Puna’s nephew and his wife; who were holding highly paid positions in environment and infrastructure are guilty, guilty, guilty.

Chief Justice Patrick Keane was the one sitting on the four weeks ‘judge only trial’ which the accused asked for.

He spent months of deliberation over every single charge, of which there were many. CJ Keane declares “I have found each defendant guilty of all or most of the offences with which they are charged, and have convicted them of those offenses.”

The sigh of relief by the PERC and Crown audit offices would have been loud, as they waited with bated breath knowing that other past high-profile cases involving high ranking members of parliament had gone awry or were dismissed by another Judge’s deliberation.

People at my local store were buying the paper and rejoicing great news and about time.

Others couldn’t fathom that it actually happened as they too thought the slippery-ness of being politically connected could get them off somehow. Not only were members of the public relieved and happy about the verdict they followed their exuberance with calls of

“now make sure they get locked up and make them pay back all our tax payer’s money.”

The general mood was wow as they processed that no obvious interference had come into the decision and it was fundamentally the right one.  

Everyone following the court reports could see the writing on the wall, there was elation, there was a feeling that all was right with the world and a hope that this could be the start of change for the better that bad behaviour and obvious corruption will be found out, the perpetrators caught and convicted.

The following day disbelief, as the headlines read ‘Tapaitau to remain in office.’ What?

What is he waiting for - a pardon from the Minister of Justice? As was eloquently stated in an online Facebook feedback “step down gracefully or be dismissed disgracefully”

You have to wonder if Tapaitau may be confused with the process after all he has been dismissed and reinstated so many times, he probably thinks this is a temporary measure.

When he was first charged in October 2021 the Prime Minister Mark Brown said in accordance with Article 14(7)(b) of the CI constitution I have advised the QR to suspend Tapaitau from his duties as Minister for the Crown pending the outcome of his court case.

Then Brown reinstates Taipatau in May 2022 so he could be voted back into Penryhn; just in case his seat was needed to keep CIP in government, like when he was first elected. In the end it wasn’t necessary, but the PM didn’t back down until June 2023 when Tapaitau was dumped again because he was actually in court on trial.

We knew DPM Tapaitau was doomed as soon as his New Zealand QC dropped his case. But once again, for reasons that are beyond belief, because no reasons were given; Brown reinstates Tapaitau November 2023, to welcome the Pacific forum leaders. How can they trust us to be honest and trustworthy if we allow this questionable level of leadership to govern our nation.

Now two months later eating humble pie, Brown is doing what should have stayed done three years ago.  His latest statement issued sounds very high mighty prime ministerial

“This case has demonstrated the integrity of our judicial process. No person is above the law, our system of checks and balances has not been compromised and if you are found to be in breach of the law you will be held to account. CIP government accepts and will abide by the court’s decision.”  

Listen to Brown, he was happy to string Tapaitau along when he needed him, but because the Penryn electorate won’t affect his government standing, he’s swinging his axe.

Someone wrote that Tapaitau was a puppet of ex-PM Puna and Brown for their own political gains and that as a concrete slab builder Tapaitau had no place being in politics. Norman George might argue he was strung along, but it won’t wash, because they have washed their hands of him from their moral high road.

No one is above the law, with CJ Keane in house. Imagine if we could re-trial some past cases like the medical flight that brought Tapaitau to Rarotonga after his election. When PM Puna gave Rakahanga two paid public holidays. Or the charted flight with Puna and Brown to Te Hani Brown vaka jumping campaign. If no one is above the law – maybe it’s time to test it.